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Coronavirus cases in Hazleton continue surge

Emergency officials are concerned as the numbers continue to climb.

HAZLETON, Pa. — Cases of coronavirus in Luzerne County continue to rise. Officials tell us the majority of cases are still in the greater Hazleton area.

Last week, hospital officials urged the community to practice social distancing after they reported only two out of every 10 people were doing so.

An emergency room doctor at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Hazleton said the cases of COVID-19 in Hazleton continue to climb exponentially. New patients are primarily people who have had contact with someone else who is COVID-19 positive. The message from the hospital is to please practice social distancing.

Government leaders in Luzerne County say they're in an "all hands on deck" situation after hospital officials in Hazleton pleaded with the public to social distance after a spike in COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: Officials: Spike in COVID-19 cases in Hazleton due to failure to social distance

"Now we're seeing a doubling rate of that to a point where now it's just this exponential growth to the point where we're really concerned about the community. There's one thing that you can all do to help each other, help yourself, help your loved one, the Hazleton community, and that's really to social distance and stay inside as much as possible and away from each other," said Dr. Andrew Miller, emergency department, Lehigh Valley Hospital Hazleton.

County officials worked through the weekend to come up with solutions.

"Every day, we are in contact with the hospitals. Every day we're in contact with the Department of Health. Every day we're in contact with our partners in the EMS community," said Luzerne County Manager David Pedri.

"We get daily conference calls, daily updates. They were really the first to raise an alarm on the surge that was coming to Hazleton, and then a collaborative leadership team was put in place," explained State Senator John Yudichak, (I) 14th District.

The team is comprised of many government, medical, and business leaders in the Hazleton area who have begun working on messaging, especially to the Latino community, and enforcing social distancing through a curfew for much of the greater Hazleton area.

RELATED: Freeland issues curfew

RELATED: Hazleton under curfew

RELATED: Curfew begins for West Hazleton

"We're buying time for medical professionals to help people that are affected by this," said Hazle Township supervisor Jim Montone

Dr. Miller says it will be a little while until the effects of the curfew are seen at the hospital but says if social distancing is practiced, it will work.

"The curfew, we won't see how that will affect any of the cases for the next few weeks exactly, because once you get exposed to someone with COVID, it takes several days before you start seeing symptoms and so we'll see over the next few weeks how that's being followed."

Montone and other leaders say they have been getting complaints about the industrial park in the township from callers who say the place is not following social distancing guidelines. Officials cannot shut down the industrial park.

"What we can do and what we are doing is we have our code enforcement people on a daily basis, they're visiting plants in that industrial park. They're making sure that they have hand washing stations, they're giving their people their masks, gloves, that they're following what the CDC and the governor is telling us to do," Montone said.

State Representative Tarah Toohil tells Newswatch 16 she has been meeting with management at the park and is working with them to make sure they have the tools necessary to operate safely.

Luzerne County Manager David Pedri wrote to the governor on Friday asking for assistance, perhaps even from the National Guard.

"I'm not saying we definitely need the National Guard. I want to let the governor's office know we need everything we possibly could, up to and including the National Guard," Pedri said.

Governor Wolf said he has no intention of sending the National Guard to the Hazleton area, at least not yet.

But Sen. Yudichak feels it was a smart move to put Luzerne County on the state's radar.

"Luzerne County's in the top five. We need to be in the top five when it comes to resources, when it comes to the attention of the Department of Health, whether it's PEMA, the National Guard, whatever state resources. We want to make sure our hospitals, our citizens have the resources they need from the Commonwealth and the federal government," Sen. Yudichak said.